Supporting your peer’s journey

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Recovery is an important concept in peer support
and mental health but it can also sound very clinical. That’s why in this series, we’ll be referring
to it as a wellness journey. Moving along a wellness journey is a process. It’s about finding balance and a quality
of life, and it looks different for everyone. A wellness journey doesn’t focus only on
mental health and illness. Rather, it can include anything from creating
or maintaining positive relationships to involvement in the community
and general well-being. When it comes to peer support, supporting
your peer’s wellness journey involves helping them get back on track or start
a new chapter of their life. So, what’s part of a wellness journey? Well, a wellness journey has four important
components: hope, empowerment, responsibility and meaning. Hope is the belief that things can and WILL
get better. It’s a great motivator. It helps to focus on goals your peer can achieve
and things they can control. Empowerment means having the power to do things. It can happen by getting informed, having
the opportunity to make choices and be in control, and focusing on
strengths instead of weaknesses. Responsibility is about your peer taking responsibility
for the things that are within their power. It may involve taking risks, trying new things
and learning from mistakes. It’s also about letting go of feelings of
blame, shame, anger and disappointment that can be associated with bad experiences. Finding meaning means finding purpose. It’s about finding what drives your peer and
what brings them a sense of belonging. Meaning helps to conquer feelings of isolation
and it can boost your peer’s sense of hope, empowerment and responsibility. So, how can you support others in their journey
to wellness? As a peer supporter, you first need to respect
where your peer is at with their journey. You need to accept that their goals, values,
beliefs and chosen path may be different than yours. Try to create and explore options with your
peer, rather than to provide direction. Focus on empowering them and having THEM take
steps forward on their own. As you support your peer throughout their
wellness journey, remember that they may be experiencing social isolation and feelings
of loneliness. In fact, you may have experienced it yourself. We tend to experience social isolation when
we don’t have enough meaningful interactions with people, and
we don’t feel connected with others. Loneliness, on the other hand, is what we
feel when our social connections are not what we need or want. Loneliness isn’t a stable thing; it varies
throughout our life. For example, we often put a lot of value on
friendships and romantic relationships when we’re teenagers and young adults, so we
may experience more loneliness at that time if we don’t have those strong relationships. While we often experience both social isolation
and loneliness at the same time, we can also feel lonely without being socially isolated,
and vice versa. Part of your role as a peer support is to
address the loneliness and isolation your peer may be experiencing. Encourage them to connect or re-connect with
their communities, and help them throughout that process — this can include their family,
friends, neighbourhood, school, cultural community, or even an online community. On top of addressing isolation and loneliness, this will give your peer a network of support
to help them deal with stress. And remember: if your peer’s feelings of
loneliness don’t seem to go away, or if they affect their day-to-day life, discuss
with them how agencies and professionals in your community can also help with their journey
to wellness. Thanks for watching! Up next, communication considerations.

 

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